Sixteenth Section 
United Methodist Church

People on the move: sharing God's Word, helping others, and learning 
to be everyday Christians.  Isn't it time you came home?

It's All About Jesus

Notes from the Pastor

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There is No Other Way

Posted on June 6, 2017 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (1)

A number of years ago, a friend called me and asked if Jesus is the only way to gain salvation. I asked if this was a trick question. When she said, "No," I answered that Jesus is the only way to receive salvation. 

In this age of political correctness, some churches are beginning to adopt the belief that Jesus is ONE way to salvation, but not the ONLY way. At Sixteenth Section UMC we believe when Jesus says, "No one comes to the Father except through me," He means there is no other way to salvation. Allow me to share a few scriptures with you that should make the answer clear.

John 14:1-6 (ESV) 1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus himself declared in the Gospel of John that He is the way, the truth, and the life. If there were any other way, He would have told us. The following verses should help you see the pathway to salvation clearly.

Romans 3:21-25 (ESV) 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

 So what is sin? Basically, anything that separates us from God is sin. If you read Isaiah 6, you will see that God is holy, and He cannot look upon sin. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, who, though instructed not to eat from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, disobeyed God and as a result what we refer to as 'Original Sin" entered into mankind. In the United Methodist Church, we believe we are all born in sin, but there is a divine spark that we call "Prevenient Grace" or preventing grace. God loves us so much, He has given us this grace so that at some point it will help us anwer the call from God to be in relationship with Him.  

In John 3:16-18 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

NLT Acts 3:19 Now turn from your sins and turn to God, so you can be cleansed of your sins. 20 Then wonderful times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will send Jesus your Messiah to you again.

NLT Romans 10:13 For "Anyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved."

So, how can you be saved? 

(1) Believe in God

(2) Believe in Jesus Christ, His Son

(3) Believe that Jesus died for your sins, rose again on the third day, and after 40 days He ascended into heaven

(4) Acknowledge your sins, repent and turn from your sins and toward God

(5) Ask Jesus to become your Savior and your Lord (the Master of your life.) At this point, you have received justifying grace. (God's free, unmerited favor--you did nothing to earn your salvation, it is all grace.)

(6) Be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

(7)  Determine you will walk in sanctifying grace all the days of your life. (Sanctification is when grace begins to move us closer to living a holy life before God and before man. It means we have been set apart for God's purpose.)


NOW WHAT?

Begin to read your Bible every day. I like to advise people to begin with the gospel of John, because John walked side by side with Jesus. 

Get into a Bible believing, Bible teaching church.

Join a Sunday School Class.

Make church attendance a priority.

Join a Bible Study.

Pray each morning that God will direct your path, and that He will enable you to live a life of holiness.

Pray each night, taking account of how well you behaved like Jesus during the day.

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify God. Matt 5:16. And that is about it. If you have any questions, call, text or email me. One of the great things about this path is that you are not alone.

Enjoy the journey!

Pastor Carol


Can you hear my Voice

Posted on April 25, 2016 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

John 10:22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly." 25 Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father's hand. 30 The Father and I are one."

 

Do you know the shepherd’s voice?

 

Studies have been done that prove that babies in the mother’s womb come to recognize her voice at around 30 weeks. Fetal monitors have been hooked up to prove that the baby’s heart beat will accelerate when it hears the mother’s voice. Well, Jesus tells us in today’s passage that we are his sheep and because of this we know His voice.

 

The scripture from John occurred during the Festival of Hanukkah which was in the early winter and corresponds with what we now celebrate as Christmas. Jesus had told his followers a couple of months earlier that he was the Good Shepherd—the way John recorded these events made it seem as though they all happened at the same time, but John 10:1-21 happened in the fall.

 

The Jews who were anxiously awaiting a king to overthrow the Romans said, If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly—no more double talk! Don’t you hate it when you cant get a straight answer from someone? Since Jesus many times had to explain his parables to even his disciples, it makes us wonder if anyone understood what Jesus was saying without additional explanation. But what about the miracles?

 

But Jesus said i’ve told you and I’ve shown you through signs and wonders who I am, but because you are not of my flock you will not believe.You see, signs and wonders were for the express purpose of glorifying God and by glorifying God, Jesus was glorified as well. But if you can’t see the signs pointing to God, then you can’t see them.

 

When Jesus spoke in terms of shepherding, for us we may find difficulty in understanding what he was saying—not so of the people who were contemporaries of Jesus. They understood Jesus’ language and his actions. People in Jesus’ time understood about sheep.

 

Sheep travel in flocks, but there is always that one sheep who either is a little adventurous or doesn’t keep up with the flock. It is important to keep all of the sheep together, because only then can the shepherd protect them. One of the controversial verses in the Bible comes with v. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. People who believe in the idea of once saved always saved will invariable use these verses.

 

But let’s look at what Jesus was saying about the sheep again. As long as the sheep stayed within range of the shepherd’s voice, he was able to keep them safe. No predator would be able to snatch them from his care. But if the sheep strayed too far, then they were in danger of lions and other predators.

 

As long as we stay within the sound of the shepherd’s voice, as long as we are close to him, there is no way anyone or anything can snatch us away. The problem comes when we begin to stray from the sound of Jesus’s voice. It always starts with something that seems innocent. But straying actually means we wander aimlessly. When we determine we are going to be intentional disciples, we cannot afford to wander aimlessly.

 

 

I love the song “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord” because I don’t need to be able to see Jesus with my physical eyes, but I must be able to see Him with my heart. And we must be able to hear with spiritual ears. But how do we do that?

 

I want everyone to talk to the person sitting beside you with a normal voice. (Pastor—speak someone’s name in a normal voice) If she or he does not hear, use mike)

I called out a name but she did not hear because of the noise. I finally used my mike so that she could hear. But God will not use a mike. To be able to hear the voice of the Shepherd we must be able to block out distractions.

 

Are you willing to block out the distractions in your life so that you can hear the shepherd’s voice? It’s not as easy as you might think. Television—distraction; texting—distraction—Facebook, snapchat—distraction. Even reading the bible online can be a distraction because while you are reading, trying to meditate upon the word, ads pop up, notifications pop up.

 

Another thing about sheep is that they were branded by a notch cut into their ear. Because of this branding, there was never any question as to whom they belonged. We have each been branded by our baptism—whether we were baptized as Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, Assemblies—our baptism brought us into the body of Christ. A shepherd had two ways of knowing a sheep was his—they came at the sound of his voice and he looked at the notch on the ear.

 

How do people tell if we belong to the great Shepherd? We must live into our baptism, we must live a life that is both pleasing to God and recognized by people.

 

 

 

God's Transformational Love

Posted on February 2, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Luke 19:1-9

 

Luke 19:1-9 (NRSV)

 

Jesus and Zacchaeus

 

Chapter 19

 

 

1 He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.

 

GOD'S TRANSFORMATIONAL LOVE

One of the big toys of the last 3 decades has been Transformers. Shawn brought a transformer to share with us a few Sundays back. Our son who is 37 played with transformers when he was Shawn's' age. Every week I pray that God would transform us, change us, alter us, remodel us, into his image. Why? We just talked last week about God's unconditional love, so why do we have to change? Because God loves us so much that although he meets us where we are, he does not want to leave us that way.

 

It's like when Adam and Eve sinned, God didn't banish them from the Garden as a punishment, but out of love. If they had remained in the Garden they would have eaten from the Tree of Life, living forever in their sin.

 

Today we are revisiting the story of Zacchaeus. I always loved this story because I can identify with someone who has to climb a tree to see above the crowds. What caused Zacchaeus to do such a thing? I don't believe it is just the claustrophobia that comes from being short and a crowd is closing in around you. Zacchaeus was driven to do anything it takes to see this man called Jesus.

 

So this wee little man climbs up in a sycamore tree, which is one of those wonderful trees that are generally round in shape and have a lot of foliage. I would imagine the closer Jesus gets the louder the crowd becomes with people calling out, Jesus, touch me, Jesus, heal me. But when Jesus came near Zacchaeus. there is no indication in the scripture that Zacchaeus shouted out to Jesus. Instead the scripture says Jesus looked up and said hurry down from that tree, I’m coming to your house to day.

 

Now transformations are sometimes quick, and sometimes they occur over time. The transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly is not instantaneous, but it is beautiful. Zacchaes’ transformation was both beautiful and instantaneous. When That wee little man climbed into the tree he was the chiefest of sinners because he not only cheated his own people out of money and gave part of it to the Roman government ,but he kept the rest for himself. But when he met Jesus face to face, Jesus didn’t tell him to repent, he didn’t tell him to make restitution, but that is exactly what Zacchaeus did.

 

This episode in the life of Jesus occurred near the end of his ministry. He had already raised Lazarus from the dead and the Pharisees were out to get Jesus and Lazarus to put an end to this craziness that was upsetting their apple cart. Timing is everything. Had Zacchaeus stayed and counted his money a little longer, he would have missed seeing Jesus. Had he not run ahead of the crowd he would have missed seeing Jesus. And had Zacchaeus not climbed that tree, he would have missed seeing Jesus.

 

Yes, timing is everything. And God’s timing is supreme. I think back to 9/11 of people who would have been in the tower but they were late getting to work that day--one person had a flat tire, another missed the train, one woman had to go back into the house for something.

Timing is everything.

 

So here we are in 2016 and United Methodists are joining together to pray for spiritual revival, to prepare for spiritual revival and to prove to the world that God is still on the throne. And I will tell you revival has seldom been needed more than now in the 21st century. So what will transformation look like? 'For the church, we will stop being just Christians and we will become Christ followers. Christians have accepted Christ as their Savior, but Christ followers have made him their Lord, their King. For the unchurched, the transformation brought about by revival will be more apparent. People who had no interest in the things of the church will begin to seek after God. Those who couldn't find time to go to church on Sunday will find there is no where else they would rather be. For those unchurched who worked to help the less fortunate, there is suddenly a new motivation fueled by the love of God. For the churched revival will bring us closer to God and that closeness will open our eyes to new ministry opportunities. We will no longer think of regular attendance as being twice a month, but instead will be here every time there is a service unless we are ministering to others. For the truth is, if you have been built up in your faith to the point that you are spending more Sundays in ministry than in Church I am okay with that. Because to be the church we must spend time outside of the walls of the church.

 

Zacchaeus was:

Relentless

Ready to repent

Ready to make restitution

Ready to live in the fullness that God wants for each of us

 

 

 

 

God's Unconditional Love

Posted on February 1, 2016 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

1/24/2016

 

God’s Unconditional Love

 

Romans 8:37-39

 

Romans 8:37-39New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

28 We know that all things work together for good[u] for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.[v] 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

God’s Love in Christ Jesus

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.[w] 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,

 

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;

we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

When I was in my teens and early twenties, I loved Southern Gospel music, and I will always remember the sight of Vestal Goodman from the group The Happy Goodman’s marching up and down the stage at Robinson Auditorium with white handkerchief waving and reciting this verse.

 

When Paul wrote these words it had been about 25 years since Christ had died. There was conflict in the early church—we’ve talked about it before. The Jewish Christians continued to follow the Jewish law first and then follow Christ. In fact they were so convinced this was the way to live that they persecuted those Gentiles who had become Christ followers if they did not first live according to the Jewish law.

 

When I read the letter to the Romans I go back and look at the famous Roman Road to salvation, because everything in the book of Romans teaches us the way not just to salvation but to sanctification. And I treasure this knowledge, this understanding that God’s unconditional love is a real thing, and not only should be believe in and rely upon this love, but we should show this love to others.

 

There is a phenomena today where those asked about their religious affiliation write “None.” The “Nones” have grown to almost 24% of the adult population in the US. Many of the Nones have religious backgrounds, and 70% believe in God, yet they do not see the need to be in His presence along with other believers. The main reason these people give for not going to church are Christians—we are thought to be hypocritical, we are thought to be judgmental. But do you know what I believe? I believe the real reason is not what non-church-goers believe about us. I believe that people are using our sometimes bad behavior as an excuse. I believe the main reason people are staying away from church is that they cannot fathom that a God could possibly be so big as to love them regardless of their past or present sins.

 

As a pastor you have to learn to listen to what is not said as much as what is spoken. When someone tells me they are not religious but they are spiritual, what I hear is that they believe in God, yet they do not understand the need to have a relationship with Him, to learn from his word, to spend time in prayer. Instead, one who claims to be spiritual can often be found meditating, but not on the word, instead perhaps on a particular word. Instead of focusing on God, a person who is spiritual will often focus on one word or an image to center themselves so that they can find peace, not in god but in themselves.

 

People who are spiritual but not religious many times grew up in households that have been sporadic in their church attendance. The traditions that strengthen our faith like reciting the Apostle’s Creed or saying The Lord’s Prayer are either unimportant to them, or perhaps even unknown to them. Can I tell you what I fear from this spirituality gap growing among us? I fear that in the very near future when I am called in to sit at someone’s bedside who is quickly leaving this world, that praying the Lord’s Prayer or the 23rd Psalm will bring only a blank stare instead of the glow of peace that I have seen so often as I have helped usher someone from this world to the next. I am afraid that as I sing the old hymns of the church to one who can no longer speak, their lips will not move to catch the familiar words but instead I will see only confusion.

 

So how do we reach this growing percentage of Americans who believe being spiritual is all they need? How do we convince those who are no longer in the church that these verses in the latter part of Romans 8 are true? How do we help them understand and believe that God truly loves each one of us unconditionally? First, I think we need to show them that we believe that God’s love is unconditional—that it is complete, unlimited, and it is absolute regardless of anything we say or do. If we really believe that how does that belief transform us? We no longer work to receive God’s favor, but instead we work to share God’s grace with others.

We stop trying to change others into imitations of us, but instead we strive to become imitations of Christ and we encourage all we meet to do the same.

 

If we believe in God’s unconditional love then we will welcome those who do not look like us into our body of believers. Larry is humiliated when I see someone with large disc earrings and piercings and tattoos and go up and ask about their adornments. When people see that you actually just want to talk and are really interested in their story, their faces light up and they begin to show you each visible tattoo and what it means. I have spoken to young men who have their grandfather’s military history on their arms, or young women who have their mother’s name on their shoulders because she has succumbed to breast cancer and this is her way of keeping her near.

 

I met a family a few years ago during the last week of their son’s life. He and his dad and travelled to China in May, and now in July he was dying from pancreatic cancer. The mother was distraught, not just because she was losing her son, but because he was not a church goer and she believed he would not go to heaven. I used this verse from Romans to comfort this precious mother. I told her as a pastor of course it is my wish that all believers would frequent the house of God. But I could not find anything in the scripture that says our entry into heaven is dependent upon anything we do. Instead, salvation and our subsequent entry into heaven is dependent upon one thing and on thing only—our belief in Jesus Christ, as the son of God, and our acceptance of the free gift of grace that brings with it salvation. There is nothing I can add to what Jesus has already done. And her son assured me that his account were settled and that is all I need to know.

 

Do you get it? God’s will for us is that we all receive salvation and we all cross into heaven. Does that mean that all mankind goes to heaven whether they believe in Jesus or not? No, but It is not up to me or to you to decide who goes to heaven and who does not.

 

There was a young man in WWII who died protecting France. His friends took him to the cemetery that was next to the Catholic church and asked for burial of their friend. The priest dutifully asked if the man was baptized, and of course the men did not know, so the priest sadly turned them away. So they took their friends body and dug a grave just outside of the fence. The next day they returned to be sure that the grave had not been disturbed by wild animals, but try as they could they could not find the grave. So they went to the priest, and he admitted that during the night he had struggled with his decision and so he went out by himself and moved the fence so that the young man was now included in the sacred grounds of the cemetery. That is a story of grace, that is a story of unconditional love. And this is a story that needs to resonate within each of our hearts so that we can share God’s grace, God’s love with others.

 

 

 

 

 

The Baptism of our Lord

Posted on February 1, 2016 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Jan 10, 2016

“Come, Holy Spirit, Come

Acts 8:14-17 (NRSV)

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16 (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

 

Last week we talked about Epiphany, both Paul’s revelation and the understanding of the church that when Christ came he was not just the Messiah for the Jews but for the Gentiles as well. Today is the day on our church calendar where we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, the baptism of the early believers, and we remember our own baptisms.

 

Why is it important that we have a service where we remember our baptism? Because baptism is a sacrament, which means it is both sacred and it was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism was not a ritual that began with the Christian church. The temple had baptismal pools where men could ritually cleanse themselves before entering into the temple. But it was John the Baptist who brought the element of repentance into baptism.

 

In today's scripture we see that Samaria was evangelized by Philip, not the apostle but one of the seven appointed to care for the widows and orphans. But after Stephen was stoned persecution of Christians became intense and Philip left for Samaria, and this was a big deal. Philip was Jewish and Jews and Samaritans did not mix. Why? Because Samaritans were only 1/2 Jew. When the Assyrians overthrew the northern kingdom many of the Jews who remained in Samaria intermarried and by the time King Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to the Southern Kingdom to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem there was a whole new race of 1/2 Jew and 1/2 whatever race had moved into the Northern kingdom. The Samaritans offered to help with the rebuilding but were spurned and this set up a division that remained until the time of Jesus.

 

By the time Jesus came Orthodox Jews would not even go through the area, but would make their journey longer just to avoid Samaria which was considered unclean. But Philip went and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Our scripture tells us that when the apostles heard what was happening they went to the area. And this one instance marked the beginning of the reconciliation of the Jews and the Samaritans. Peter and John laid hands on the Samaritans and they began to have their own Pentecost. I am sure they said the words that are similar to the words I utter during every service, Come, Holy Spirit , come.

 

And during baptism after the water has been poured and we have baptized in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit we beckon the Holy Spirit to come and live within that person that they might become the Christ follower that God intends for them to be. While baptism does not save us but instead we are baptized by faith through Gods grace, baptism is an integral part of our salvation. We aren't baptized because we are unique,we become unique because we are baptized.

 

With baptism we confess publicly our belief in God and our pledge to turn away from evil and toward God. With baptism we confess Jesus as our Savior. Baptism does not save us but it is an outward sign of an inward grace. We baptize infants because in the book of acts we see entire households saved and baptized. We baptize infants because they, too, are entitled to God's grace and indeed are covered by his grace and are compelled by that grace to confess Jesus when they are old enough to understand.

 

I do not know if there are some here who have never been baptized. I do not know if there are some who have never confessed Jesus to be their savior. I do not know if there are some who claim salvation but their lives have never been changed, they have never conformed to the shape of God's own hand. I do not know what is holding you back from giving your life completely to Jesus. I do know that each Sunday you are given the opportunity to come to front, to pray with your pastor, to have new life in Christ. I do know that if everyone in here had new life in Christ that this church would be bursting with all of the people. Because people who have given themselves over to God completely and totally want to bring as many with them as they possibly can.

 

There is an old gospel song I used to love to sing--Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon, many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound. I can't sing that song anymore because it is as if we are celebrating that people not found in Christ will meet their doom. God forbid! God forbid that any are left when the trumpet of God sounds, and God forbid that when I get to heaven there are a line of people standing outside the gates pointing their fingers at me and saying, Why didn't you tell me?

 

People want to know why I work so hard? That's why. I don't just have a responsibility to you, I have a responsibility to those who have not given their lives to God.

 

Tomorrow night I am going to be here at 6:30 and for anyone who has not been baptized I want you to come and talk with me about baptism and about what it means to be a disciple of Christ. And next Sunday we will perform baptisms. Sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. It does not matter the amount of water, but that you are baptized with the water and the Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

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Introduction

All standing in body and/or spirit.

 

Sisters and brothers in Christ:

through the sacrament of baptism

God's Spirit has been poured out upon water,

water poured over and immersing us,

water that flows freely for all who will receive it,

water from the streams of God's saving power and justice,

water that brings hope to all who thirst for righteousness,

water that refreshes life, nurtures growth, and offers new birth.

 

Today we come to the waters,

to renew our commitments

in each other's presence

to Christ who has raised us,

the Spirit who has birthed us,

and the Creator who is making all things new.

 

Renunciation of Sin and Profession of Faith

 

And so I ask you, will you turn away from the powers of sin and death, renouncing the spiritual forces of wickedness, rejecting the evil powers of this world, and repenting of your sin!

 

We will

 

Will you accept the freedom and power God gives us

To resist evil, injustice, and oppression

In whatever forms they present themselves!

 

We will.

 

Will you proclaim the good news and live as disciples of Jesus Christ, his body on earth?

Will you confess Jesus Christ as our Savior,

put your whole trust in his grace,

and promise to serve him as your Lord,

in union with the church which Christ has opened

to people of all ages, nations, and races!

 

We will.

 

Will you be living witnesses to the gospel, individually and together, wherever you are, and in all that you do?

Will you receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments?

 

We affirm and teach the faith of the whole church

as we put our trust

in God, the Father Almighty.

in Jesus Christ, his only Son.

and in the Holy Spirit,

one God now and forever.

 

Thanksgiving Over the Water

The Spirit of the Lord is with us.

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Let us pray.

 

Almighty God, the life you birthed in us

by baptism into Jesus Christ

will never die.

Your justice never fails.

Your mercy is everlasting.

 

Your healing river flows.

Your Spirit blows where you will.

We cannot stop you, God!

 

But sometimes we try.

We try to block the flow,

we redirect the winds of the Spirit,

or we walk so far away from the life-giving Stream

that we do not hear its sound,

and we forget its power.

We parch ourselves.

 

We are dry and thirsty, O God.

Come, refresh us!

 

The pastor offers gestures of calling upon the Holy Spirit to come upon the people and the water.

The people are invited to offer the same gestures as they respond.

 

Come upon us, Holy Spirit!

Come upon us, Holy Spirit!

 

Come upon these waters.

Come upon these waters.

 

Let these waters be to us drops of your mercy.

Let these waters remind us of your righteousness and justice.

Let these waters renew in us the resurrection power of Jesus.

Let these waters make us long for your coming reign.

 

Most Holy God, Abba, Father!

Glory to you!

 

Jesus Christ, Savior, Lord!

Glory to you!

 

Spirit of fire, Spirit over the waters, Spirit of holiness!

Glory to you!

 

Eternal God, One in Three and Three in One!

All glory is yours, now and forever. Amen!

 

All who are baptized and have renewed their vows are invited to come to the font to use the water as a sign of refreshing. As each uses the water, another says to her or him:

Remember that you are baptized, and rejoice!

 

 

 

"Do You See What I See?"

Posted on January 8, 2016 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

January 3, 2015

 

Eph 3:1-12

 

3 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for[a] Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. 5 In former generations this mystery[b] was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

 

7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make everyone see[c] what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in[d] God who created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.[e]

 

Many preachers today will be using the text of the Magi visiting Jesus for their epiphany sermon, for truly the Magi represented the Gentiles and their epiphany that Jesus was the Christ. But we are going to visit instead Paul’s epiphany on the road to Damascus. The scripture we just read shows us why Paul was chosen and for what he was chosen, to reveal the mystery that the Gentiles are fellow heirs in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

We all know about Paul—his Hebrew name was Saul of Tarsus and he was both a Roman and a Jew. He was headed to Damascus to round up any Christ followers he might find and carry them back to Jerusalem. But the light that we have talked about during Advent and Christmas struck him, causing him to fall down blind and Jesus himself spoke to Saul and said, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? Because you see, when Christ followers are persecuted, Jesus is persecuted along with them.

 

Over the next few days Saul underwent one of the most startling transformations in the history of Christianity as he was changed from a man intent on wiping Christ followers from the face of the earth to preaching Christ and Christ crucified to all he met. Indeed, Paul would write 2/3 of the New Testament, many of his letters written while imprisoned. Paul was struck blind and as the scales fell from his eyes, not only was his physical vision restored, but his spiritual eyes were opened, and he began to see people the way God sees each one of us. If a man like Paul can be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit so that the zeal with which he persecuted people who followed Christ was turned toward revealing the mystery of Christ to all people, then why cant we, too, have an epiphany that is life changing. We can.

 

It was 1987 and we were having a revival in our church. This was a true revival where the focus was not on evangelism but on strengthening and restoring the body of Christ within the local church. We were given an assignment—chart your spiritual progress over the past 5 years. To my surprise and dismay, I had flatlined. I was in the choir, teaching Sunday School, attending church every time the door was open, but I had not grown in 5 years. So I began to pray for revival in my own spirit. April came and went, nothing changed, May, nothing, June, nothing, July, nothing. But then came August. I was in the house alone and the Holy Spirit fell upon me. I was filled with His presence, the room was filled with His presence. I fell on my knees and the tears flowed freely. I lifted my hands toward God and began to praise Him. I fell on my face and continued to pray and praise Him until I was exhausted.

 

From that moment my life changed. I had an epiphany that showed me that God loved me, He was faithful and because I had sought him with my whole heart he answered my prayers to restore the passion I once had for Him. Still had the same problems, but I knew God was bigger than my problems. My circumstances did not change but the way I reacted to my circumstances underwent a huge change.

 

We have been charged by our Conference to pray daily for revival. We will have sermons focusing on revival, we will have a 5 week study during Lent to prepare us for revival. I have put Daily Lectionary readings on our website so that you can increase your knowledge, increase your faithfulness, and increase your passion.

 

We are passing out a graph that you can use to chart your spiritual journey thus far. One good measure of spiritual maturity is found in Galatians 5:22--we call them the fruits of the spirit. I have listed the Fruits of the spirit and you have a scale of 1-10 to reflect how much these fruits are active in your life.

 

The bottom graph gives you the ability to chart your spiritual journey.

Then take some time to reflect on your journey. Are you happy with your progress? Could you have done better? And here is the big question--how much did you rely on God?

 

Signs of spiritual growth

We repent of our sins instead of making excuses for them

Instead of praying to get out of a situation, we pray that God would teach us through the situation

Instead of asking God to bless us because after all we are his children, we ask him to direct us BECAUSE WE ARE HIS DISCIPLES

As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs for thee o lord

 

Do you see what I see?

I see a new year where we can put the past behind us and look forward to a glorious future

I see a new relationship possibility with Christ where we can find that his mercies are NEW every morning

And I see a dawning of a fresh new work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches where we are delivered from darkness and into his marvelous light.

 

One More Time

Posted on January 8, 2016 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Delivered Christmas Eve 2015


Scripture

2:1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.

2:2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

2:3 All went to their own towns to be registered.

2:4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.

 

2:5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.

2:6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.

2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

2:8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

2:9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

2:10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see--I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:

2:11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

2:12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger."

2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

2:14 "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

2:15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."

2:16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

2:17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;

2:18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.

2:19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

2:20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 


We have completed our season of Advent, where we both celebrate the first coming of Jesus and look forward to His Second Coming, one more time. We have heard the Christmas story as recorded in the gospel of Luke one more time. Tonight at sunset Christmas Day arrived according to tradition, and we are now in the 12 days of Christmas one more time.

So what can we learn tonight, 12/24/2015 that we have not already learned? Perhaps we need to learn that the events of more than 2000 years ago can not be left in the long ago past, but must be brought forward into the here and now, because it is only in the here and now that we can be effective witnesses to what Jesus has done and is doing in our lives. It is only in the here and now that the story of Christmas becomes the story of hope, joy, peace and love for us and for all people around the world.

Because you see there was something in that first Christmas that is often overshadowed by all of the supernatural events of the day. The king of the Jews was born not into royalty but to a poor couple, not in the great city of Jerusalem but in a small town called Bethlehem, and the announcement went out not to those on top of the economic hierarchy but to those on one of the lowest rungs of society at that time, shepherds who slept on the ground with stinky, smelly sheep.

The Messiah was born not just for the rich, not just for the well connected, not just for the Jews, but for all people. Why was a king born into such humble circumstances? Because Jesus came not to teach us to rule over others, but to serve others. He came not to teach us to amass fortunes in this world, but to build up treasures in heaven. And Jesus came not to blend in to a society that was already wracked by sin, but to rebel against the works of darkness by being a light that would extinguish the darkness. And that is why tonight and every Christmas Eve our theme is light that shines in the darkness, promised by God, delivered by God. And when Jesus returns there will not be angels singing to just a small group of people in a field in an obscure place across the globe. No, when Christ returns it will be with shouts of glory, with the sound of trumpets, and every eye will see him.

We are called not just to hear the Christmas story but to live the Christmas story. But how do we live a story that is so big, so overwhelming, so supernatural? We live the Christmas story by being true to who we are called to be. We live the Christmas story not by recreating the events of His birth one more time, but by allowing ourselves to become transformed into new creations, people touched by His grace, changed by His grace, and motivated by His grace to show a supernatural love to others. And we are called to do this not just one more time, but all of the time. For if we fail to live out the Christmas story then it becomes irrelevant.

There will never be another Christmas Eve 2015. There will never be a better time to commit your life to living out the Christmas story. In a few minutes we will partake of Holy Communion. The table is the Lord’s table and all are welcome to come. You do not have to be a member of our church, you do not have to be a Methodist. You only need the desire to receive God’s grace and I tell you His grace will be poured out upon you as you receive the bread and the cup.

"Coming Home"

Posted on January 7, 2016 at 11:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Delivered 12/27/2015

 

Luke 15:11-32New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

 

The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother

11 Then Jesus[a] said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with[b] the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[c] 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

 

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father[d] said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

 

Coming Home, coming home, never more to roam

Open wide thine arms of love, Lord I’m Coming home.

 

I love the parables, and one thing I love about them is that there is more than one story to be told within each parable. And the best way to learn about a parable is to select a part to play within in the story. So today instead of focusing on the brother who ran away, Let’s look at the brother who stayed at home.

 

It is often the oldest sibling to stays to care for their parents, or if there is only one girl it is often the daughter who stays at home. I think of the Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and how George Bailey wanted nothing more than to go off and see the world. But trouble after trouble got in his way. His father died, his uncle lost a great deal of the Saving and Loan’s money, there was a run on the bank, his younger brother went off to war—each time George tried to break away there was something preventing him from leaving. Eventually he became bitter and when it seemed he could no longer solve all of the problems that faced him, he tried to take his own life. It was then that Clarence the angel stepped in and convinced him his life was worth saving by showing him how others’ lives would have changed had George never been born.

 

The parable son shows us a young man who is so self-centered he demands his inheritance while his father is still living. In Jesus’ culture this would have been the same thing as wishing one’s father was dead. But the father, whose love was greater than his son’s sin, gave his son what he demanded and let him go. Meanwhile, the older son stayed and worked for his father, giving him his loyalty, his companionship, and seemingly never complaining. It was his duty, after all.

 

One day the unexpected occurred. The young man who had left home, hoping to see the world, returned derelict, dirty, and disgraced. The father sees the young man in the distance and runs to greet him. Before the young man can fall on his face and beg forgiveness, the father hugs his son close to him, has new clothes brought to him, orders his ring to be placed upon his finger, and throws a party.

 

We know the rest of the story. The older son, expected to co-host the party, is so resentful he refuses to even attend. The parable ends with a question mark??? Did the older son get over his anger? Was the family all reconciled or did the older son allow bitterness to split the family? Did the father give the older son a greater inheritance when he died, therefore making up for the seeming discrepancy between what the two men had received?

 

It is alway easy for us to criticize the young man yet sympathize with the older brother. After all, where is the fairness in this story? But what point was Jesus trying to make?

 

Think for a moment of the audience. Jesus was speaking to Pharisees who were always concerned not with the spirit of the law, but with the letter of law. The Pharisees would clearly see the sin of the young man, but would the sin of the older brother be readily visible? After all, isn’t unforgiveness a sin? What about bitterness? What about anger? The importance of this story is not the forgiveness of the father, nor is it even that the younger son was willing to repent. The importance is the fact that the older brother was blind to his own sin, and therefore unwilling to repent.

 

Who is the real prodigal? The one who recognizes his sin and repents, or the one who believes he is sinless and therefore refuses to repent. Wasn’t the younger son the one who was honest, while the older son revealed himself to be not only resentful but dishonest? And neither son was aware of the depth of their father’s love. The younger one expected to return home to be a servant, and the older was unaware all he had to do was ask for a party, ask for anything and his father would have gladly given it.

 

It took an angel to show George Bailey how to appreciate what he had and to be grateful for the way he had lived his life. It took Jesus to point out to the Pharisees that all sinners do not look the same. What will it take for us to recognize our own sinfulness and ask Jesus to make us whole? Isn’t it time we stop seeing the sin in the life of others and begin to see the pharisee in the mirror? Whether we have traveled far away from the God of our youth, or we are still living with our parents, isn’t it time we came home?

The Love of Advent

Posted on December 21, 2015 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Advent 4

 

Luke 1:39-45 (NRSV)

 

Mary Visits Elizabeth

 

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

 

The love of advent

 

Today is the final Sunday of Advent. We are almost at the end of our time of expectation, waiting and preparation. We have lit the candles of hope,peace, joy and love. The only thing that remains is the lighting of the Christ candle on Christmas Eve. So I want to ask you, has this season been a time of hope, peace joy and love? Have you been able to separate Advent from the Christmas frivolities that have been present since before Halloween? Have you been able to celebrate Advent despite the cares of this world.

 

Has your hope been in Christ or is your hope still in getting everything done by Christmas? Has your peace grown during the last 4 weeks, or are you anxious because you still do not have all of your preparations completed? Has your joy increased or are the events of the world wringing the joy out of your heart. And has the love of Christ enveloped you, giving you not just the ability but the desire to love all people made in God;s own image?

 

When we look back at the first Advent, we find two women who could not be more different. One, a women well past childbearing age whose hope had diminished long ago. And the other, a young teenager, unmarried, but whose hope was just beginning. The thing that united them was the supernatural events surrounding each pregnancy.

 

I've mentioned before that prior to Pentecost the Holy Spirit worked differently than he does now. Today each of us can have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. But for Elizabeth and Mary they had probably never known anyone touched by the Holy Spirit. Yet Mary conceived Jesus thru the Spirit's power and Elizabeth was filled with the spirit just by being in the same room as Mary and the yet to be born son of God.

 

Both children’s birth had been foretold and now.

x, both the Messenger and the Messiah would soon be born. We all know the stories how John the Baptist was to prepare the way of the Lord, and how Jesus would come to set the captives free. But too often we leave their stories in the long ago past when what we really need to do is bring them into the present.

 

What made their stories so compelling is still at work in our world today. It is God with us. Not some faraway god who snapped his fingers, put the world into existence, and then left the scene to pursue other activities. No, their stories are compelling because the one true and the living God. came and He came with a plan. And remember there is no plan B.

 

God’s plan was that he would love the world and he would not just talk about love, he would show us love in the form of his very own son. And so each year as we prepare to celebrate the first advent and wait expectantly for the second advent, we are witnessing God’s love in action.

 

People wonder why God allows evil, why he allows the world to be in such chaos. He has told us all through His word that we have choices—we can choose life or death, good or evil. Christmas reminds us why we should choose life, why we should choose good.

 

I love the Beatles’ music, and there is one song that is often played in churches. That song is “All you need is Love.” Wouldn’t it be great if that were true. But the truth is all we need is the love of a savior and all we need is to accept that love into our hearts and allow our lives to be transformed through Christ’s mercy and grace.

 

We have allowed our world to become corrupted, our language has become corrupted, and our love has become polluted as a consequence. How many of you women see a purse or shoes and you say, Oh I love those shoes, I love that purse. Really? That kind of love is driven by emotion, but God’s love for us is a commitment. It’s like the farmyard animals who decided to have a big breakfast. The hen would bring eggs, the cow would bring milk and butter, but when the hog asked what he would bring he said, you know you are each making a contribution. But what you are asking from me requires complete commitment.

 

Today I want to you invite you each to make not just a contribution to our services to our church, to the kingdom of God. I am asking you to make a commitment, something that requires you to put skin in the game. I am asking you to make the decision today to let God’s love permeate every part of your being. Do you know what that means? It means you will no longer hold un-forgiveness in your hearts, you will instead be obedient to God and forgive even if the person who wronged you never asks for forgiveness. It means you will no longer hate those who are different from you or those who are actively trying to hurt you and even trying to kill you, because you will no longer fear them. Why? hatred is not the opposite of love, fear is but 1 John 4:18 tells us that perfect love casts out fear. Today i am telling you it is not up to God to make your life better—he has already given you a Savior. It is now up to you to take His love, make it real in your heart and in your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Advent

Posted on December 21, 2015 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

12/13/2015

 

Advent

 

Third Sunday of Advent

Ward UMC: Geraldine Russell and Family

16th Section UMC: Andy and Kirsten

 

Reader 1: On this third Sunday of Advent,

as we think draw ever closer to the celebration of the First Advent,

we light the candle of joy.

 

Reader 2: This candle, the only pink candle, is called the Shepherd’s candle

and reflects the joy that came into the world so long ago,

reminding us that joy is still ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Reader 1: We recognize that happiness is circumstantial,

but joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit

to be celebrated not just today but every day.

 

Reader 2: May we know the joy that comes through Advent and through a personal

relationship with Jesus.

 

Isaiah 12:5-6New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

 

5 Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;

let this be known[a] in all the earth.

6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal[b] Zion,

for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

 

 

 

 

CALL TO WORSHIP

 

Psalm 51

(NRSV) 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and put a new and right spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me away from your presence,

and do not take your holy spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

and sustain in me a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will return to you.

14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,

O God of my salvation,

and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

15 O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 For you have no delight in sacrifice;

if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.

17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

 

Luke 2(NRSV) 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,

according to your word;

30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,

31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

 

THE JOY OF ADVENT

 

Today I want to talk to you about the joy of Advent. You might recall on the first Sunday of Advent I mentioned that the Hebrews were shortsighted—they were not looking for a savior to redeem the world from sin, but instead they were waiting for a king to free them of their bondage under the Romans. Each of us is swayed by our own ideology and our individual perspectives. You and i see salvation from the resurrection side of the cross, while the ones waiting for the Messiah were still under the shadow of the old testament side of the cross. So for the next few minutes I would like to ask you to forget what you know about the cross, about redemption, and about that first Christmas and engage in a little role playing.

I want you to put yourselves in the shoes of a man named Simeon. Simeon was a devout Jew, committed not only to the law but to His God, and God had promised him he would not die until he saw the Messiah. As the years rolled on, one has to wonder if Simeon ever lost hope, or if his peace failed him, or if his joy was ever diminished as infant after infant came and departed the temple, yet the christ child had not yet appeared. When I was involved in older adult ministry one of the questions asked of me so often was “Why am i still here?” Well Simeon had no need to ask that question. He knew he was still alive because the Messiah had not yet come. But I would imagine he did ask, When, When Yahweh will you send your long awaited son?

Imagine yourself an old man—easier for some of us to imagine than others. And imagine that you knew something that few others would ever know—you knew when you would die. Oh, perhaps you did not know the day and the hour, but you knew with certainty that until you saw the Messiah your lips would not taste of death.

So you waited. We do not know how long Simeon waited but the eagerness with which he greeted Jesus shows us some things about Simeon.

First, we know Simeon’s longing to see Jesus meant he valued something much more than he valued his own life. He knew Christ was Israel’s only hope, and not only Israel’s hope, but the hope for a sin sick world, a light for the Gentiles. So for Simeon even though seeing Christ meant he would now die, it was not a punishment but a sweet release. And Simeon was filled not with remorse that his life was now over, but with joy that God had revealed himself to him and he knew God’s promises to be true.

You see, Simeon was not self-centered but he was completely and totally God centered. He was drawn to the temple day after day, and now finally, he was seeing the salvation of Israel, he was holding the salvation of Israel in his arms, and he was making the announcement that this child truly was the son of God. Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

If any announcement could have been better I cannot imagine what it would have been. You see God did not bring his presence to the earth because there was joy here and he wanted to be a part of hope. No, these were not especially joyful people. God came to bring the joy and what joy he brought. Simeon was able to face his death not with dread nor with fear but with joy because he was holding the source of life. within his hands.

The second thing I want to point out about Simeon is that as a Jew Simeon had always seen salvation in a different light. For the Jewish people salvation was not as personal as it was national. They had been promised by Isaiah that a Messiah would come and he would be the consolation of Israel. In other words, for a people who had spent the majority of their existence under the rule of other nations, their salvation meant not redemption from sin but freedom to be the people God had always intended them to be. But in the last couple of verses we see that Simeon seems to have evolved beyond salvation being the vehicle that freed the Jews from bondage of men, but instead the method under which all peoples, Gentile and Jews, would be freed from the bondage of sin.

So now I want you to come back to the future. Simeon’s future, our present. And I want you to think for a moment about the human race in the 21st century. How joyful are we? With bombings and shootings and killings everywhere, aren’t we ready for some joy to the world? And what about our salvation? Do we finally understand the meaning of the salvation of Christ. Do we get that with salvation comes change, and with change comes a better world.

So the bottom line is do you have the hope, peace and joy that comes from knowing that Jesus is not only your salvation but the salvation of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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